How Waitrose is transforming its free coffee scheme - for the better

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Susan Devaney
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In a bid to reduce the planet’s plastic waste, the UK supermarket Waitrose has pledged to remove all of its disposable cups by autumn this year. 

How you consume your morning coffee on the way to work is set to look very different in 2018. As the conversation around our plastic waste picks up pace, businesses are starting to play a part in helping to save the planet by simply looking at how they can make change happen.

Which is why Waitrose has pledged to remove disposable cups from our lives.

Customers who are part of the chain’s myWaitrose loyalty scheme will still be able to claim their free hot drink, but will need to bring a refillable cup, instead of being provided with a disposable one.

“We realise this is a major change, but we believe removing all takeaway disposable cups is the right thing to do for our business and are confident the majority of customers will support the environmental benefits,” says Tor Harris, head of sustainability and responsible sourcing at Waitrose. “It underlines our commitment to plastic and packaging reduction, and our aim is to deliver this as quickly as possible.”

The UK produces around 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste every year.

Current recycling systems struggle to recycle the cups due to the mix of material they’re made from. Even though most cups are made from cardboard, the tight polyethylene liner restricts recycling.

The UK produces around 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste every year, with half a million cups littering the country each day.

Other coffee chains – such as Starbucks, Costa and Pret – have introduced a discount to customers who bring their own reusable cup, but a report, carried out by the Environmental Audit Committee, found it to be “ineffective” thus far. The committee noted the comparison to the plastic bag charge which reduced usage by around 83% in its first year in England in 2015.

But the UK supermarket says the move will prevent 52 million cups from going to landfill this year. 

Earlier this year, MPs proposed the idea of introducing a 25p ‘latte levy’ to the current cost of a takeaway cup. However, the government said the concept of a latte tax would be considered as part of a call for evidence on single-use plastics.

Waitrose will begin to trial the move from 30 April in stores located in Banbury, Billericay, Ipswich, Newmarket, Norwich, Sudbury, Wymondham, Upminster in London, and Fitzroy Street in Cambridge.

You can find other ways to reduce your plastic waste here.

Images: Getty / Unsplash  


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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.